, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 513-524

Epidermal denervation and its effects on keratinocytes and Langerhans cells

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Skin innervation has been considered to subserve sensory perception only, but several lines of evidence suggest that there are ‘effector’ influences of skin innervation on the immune system and keratotinocytes. In this study, we transected the sciatic nerves of rats and examined the effects of denervation on the epidermis. In normal skin, the epidermis was densely innervated by fine axons that were immunostained with several axonal markers, including neuronal ubiquitin carboxyl terminal hydrolase (protein gene product 9.5). All of the epidermal axons in the regions innervated by sciatic nerve disappeared within 24–48 h after transection of sciatic nerve, and remained absent as long as subsequent reinnervation by regenerating axonal sprouts was prevented. Denervation produced changes in both the keratinocytes and the Langerhans cells, the bone marrowderived antigen-presenting cells of the epidermis. The thickness of epidermis decreased within 7 days. By 48h after transection, the Langerhans cells and their dendritic processes became intensely immunoreactive for protein gene product. Protein gene product 9.5 expression on Langerhans cells remained prominent as long as skin was denervated, but disappeared with reinnervation. By reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, we demonstrated the presence of the transcripts for protein gene product 9.5 in epidermis, consistent with the synthesis of the protein by the Langerhans cells. We conclude that epidermal sensory fibres have novel influences on both keratinocytes and Langerhans cells of the epidermis.